Measure of Success

If Chris Enochs' story shows anything, it's that much of life is timing and circumstances largely beyond one's control.

The right-hander went 12-1 with 10 complete games for West Virginia's baseball team in 1997, anchoring the rotation a year after being the No. 2 starter on the 1996 NCAA Tournament team, the last time WVU's program played in the postseason. Enochs won 19 of his final 21 collegiate decisions, including a no hitter against Villanova in March of 1997 and a one-hitter over Rutgers in the 1996 Big East Tournament before coming back two days later and getting the Mountaineers out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the 7-4 championship game win over Notre Dame. The two outings earned Enoch's tournament MVP honors and helped him parlay the fantastic junior season into becoming WVU's highest player drafted in Major League baseball history – 11th overall by the Oakland A's in June of 1997.

He stayed hot, winning nine of his first 10 professional games at Class A Modesto and AA Huntsville with an ERA less than 2.00. His fastball was hitting 94 mph, and Enochs was locating it well enough that he simply added a curveball as a secondary option. Then, the Oak Glen High product injured his throwing shoulder. He tried to pitch through it, the decision causing the issue to drag out and cost Enochs three of the prime years in his career.

"It was difficult mentally because I had always gotten people out a certain way, pitched a certain way, and I was successful when I did that," he said. "After the shoulder surgery, my fastball (went from 94 mph to 89-90 mph). My stuff wasn't as good. I had to learn to pitch. I played winter in Puerto Rico when it wasn't about the wins or losses, but the opportunity to go down there and compete and work on myself. I was able to do some things. I added a cut fastball and a split finger. That helped."

Enochs, rated by Baseball America as Oakland's No. 3 prospect at the time of his injury, rocketed back through the minor league system, eventually reaching the AAA level before stagnating behind A's prospects Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito. All three went on to solid Major League careers, while Enochs went from the Triple A level with Oakland to stints with Houston (2004) and Pittsburgh (2005). Over nine pro seasons, Enochs went 45-52 with a 4.87 ERA, with 16 wins at the Triple A level.

"At the collegiate level, it was all stuff," Enochs said of his success. "I had pretty good stuff as far as velocity and a breaking ball. The first year and a half professionally, I relied upon that and then had my shoulder injury. I had to learn how to pitch. I did, but it was tough watching guys you matched up with have success at the Major League level."

Among them Pirates' closer Jason Grilli, whom Enoch's outdueled in the 1997 Big East Tournament in a 6-4 win over Seton Hall. On September 20, prior to WVU's home football game versus Oklahoma, Enochs will be inducted into the school's sports Hall of Fame as one of eight members of the 24th class. Long past thinking about the what-ifs, Enochs is happy to enjoy the honor, and not delve too deeply into what could have been.

"You think about it some, but really I'm honored to be a part of this hall of fame," he said. "I look at that long list of names, and ever since I have been a little kid, I was a huge WVU fan, as I still am today. I'm very honored. I have been a huge WVU sports fan my entire life, and when I had the opportunity to go play Division I baseball, it's somewhere I always wanted to go. They gave me a great offer. I had been other places that (didn't match the WVU offer), and when they gave me a full ride, they had the inside track."

"I still never miss a football or basketball game. My kids, they are WVU fans and they know that every Saturday dad has to watch the football game. My oldest sees that West Virginia is on, she tells me." --Chris Enochs

Even now, with 11.7 scholarships at the Division I level, a full ride is a rarity for all but the best of players. Up until the 2013 season, it was even less likely at West Virginia, which didn't fully fund its team. Enochs was recruited by the late Dale Ramsburg, but coached all three of his collegiate seasons by Greg Van Zant. For his Mountaineer career, Enochs was 21-10 with a 4.82 ERA, 14 complete games and three shutouts in 205 innings of work. His 12 wins in 1997 are the second-most in a season in school history, while the 21 victories rank him 10th all-time at WVU; his 14 complete games are seventh and his three shutouts are third.

"The moments now that stick out best to me is when, during my sophomore year, we won the Big East Tournament," Enochs said. "I threw the complete game one-hit shutout, then came in and got save over Notre Dame in the title game. There were bases loaded and no out, and I came on and got a double play and then struck the next guy out. Then the no-hitter. It was a seven-inning no-hitter, and about the fifth of sixth inning, there was a strikeout passed ball, and the guy reached base. I threw a curve ball in the dirt, and it kicked to the right. It was a close play at first base.

"We had a good year, went to regionals my sophomore year, won the Big East Tournament. There was that three or four year period where we were pretty competitive, then we had a slide. It does seem to be being resurrected, and it's nice to see them back and being competitive in a very good conference. I've never met [head coach Randy Mazey] personally, and I haven't got opportunity to go back for alumni weekend. There's always something with my own family. But I'm making it a point to go back on alumni week to see how things are going."

Enochs was an all-state baseball player, all-state quarterback and 1,000-point scorer in basketball at Oak Glen. Drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 59th round out of high school, he spurned baseball offers from Ohio State and LSU, among many others, and a football offer from Pitt, to play for the Mountaineers. Enochs returned to WVU to complete his degree in liberal arts in 2006, received his teaching certificate from Wheeling Jesuit University in 2007 and earned a master's degree in educational leadership from Salem International University in 2009. He currently is an assistant principal at Oak Glen Middle School in New Cumberland, W.Va.

Enochs said he hasn't chosen a person to introduce him at the induction, but that his wife, Jennifer, and their daughters, Reece and Macey, would be in attendance, along with other family and friends.

"Obviously, being a big WVU sports fan, I knew there was a Hall of Fame," he said. "But before they came out with the inductees, there wasn't any type of indication that I could possibly be inducted. Then (WVU Director of Athletics Oliver) Luck called in September to tell me. I still never miss a football or basketball game. My kids, they are WVU fans and they know that every Saturday dad has to watch the football game. My oldest sees that West Virginia is on, she tells me. She's really into soccer and she wants to play at WVU. Maybe one day. We will see. I tell her it's very competitive at the college level."

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